Kitsumkalum wants more say in LNG development

Band says revenue sharing agreements between other First Nations and the province do not mean LNG has a "pass to the coast"

The Kitsumkalum First Nation says it wants more contact with the provincial government over a number of proposals to build natural gas pipelines to the coast to service planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants.

Citing revenue sharing agreements recently reached with two other Tsimshian First Nations on the North Coast, Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams, Kitsumkalum chief councillor Don Roberts said in a release June 12 that those agreements do not mean the province or LNG industry has “a pass to the coast.”

RELATED: Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams reach LNG revenue sharing deal with provincial government

“They have not yet dealt with Kitsumkalum,” said Roberts, noting that Kitsumkalum has traditional territory on the coast. “And until they address our concerns and accommodate for the impacts, LNG cannot be developed on the coast.”

Kitsumkalum cites three LNG pipelines crossing Kitsumkalum territory and six LNG plants proposed on Kitsumkalum territory. The proposed Shell-LNG Canada plant isn’t directly on Kitsumkalum territory, but with atmospheric impacts and tanker traffic travelling through band territory, Kitsumkalum is a member of that environmental assessment working group, confirmed Rina Gemeinhardt, Kitsumkalum consultation and referral specialist.

Chief Roberts has several times voiced concern about ownership and control of marine resources, a crucial issue as the First Nation prepares for final land claims treaty talks with the provincial and federal governments.

The Skeena River and its tributaries – and the resources they contain – are integral to the Kitsumkalum people and treaty discussions around fish have yet to be finalized.

Kitsumkalum is concerned that the potential LNG industry provides a “very real threat to the survival of the eulachon and all the salmon runs on the Skeena River,” said fisheries manager Mark Biagi in the June 12 statement.

Roberts is calling for meetings with natural gas minister Rich Coleman and aboriginal affairs minister John Rustad.

“We are willing to talk but they haven’t even picked up the phone,” he said. “If British Columbia continues to deny us the recognition and respect for our title and rights on the coast, and fails to include us meaningfully in the benefits of this industry, we will do whatever is required to make sure that these projects do not proceed.”

The provincial aboriginal affairs ministry said there have been talks with Kitsumkalum surrounding LNG development and that the minister is committed to further meetings.

“Negotiators have kept Kitsumkalum apprised of the process and opportunities for engagement,” said Robin Platts, a public affairs officer for the provincial aboriginal affairs ministry in an emailed statement, noting the province has signed an Engagement Framework Agreement and Workplan with Kitsumkalum that focuses on matters related to proposed LNG projects within Kitsumkalum asserted traditional territory.

“We continue to acknowledge that ongoing and meaningful dialogue needs to continue, which is why the Minister has previously met with the leadership of Kitsumkalum, and why the he is committed to meeting with Aboriginal communities wherever opportunity arises,” he said.

And earlier last year Roberts hinted that revenue sharing would be an issue.

“They may not have a 100 per cent say [in development outside of core treaty lands] but they will be looking for partnerships, revenue sharing,” he said in a Terrace Standard article published Feb. 4, 2013, speaking to how Kitsumkalum people view traditional lands that won’t be part of their core treaty.

The ministry said the Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams agreements were site- and project- specific, tied to agreements with Aurora LNG and Woodside, two LNG plants proposed near Prince Rupert.

“There will be engagement with other First Nations, including Kitsumkalum, regarding LNG development. The topics of these engagements, and the potential outcomes, may include economic benefits, though the nature of the agreements may differ from those that were announced with Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams,” he said.